Last night I watched Suicide Club. I would place it in a genre of Japanese films (see also: Audition, Visitor Q, Izo, etc.) that are strange and shocking for the sake of being strange and shocking, but still seem to reflect on serious issues that less strange and less shocking American films delve into.
Suicide Club was sort of like a few types of films in one — although I called it a sub-genre, it really resists fitting under any genre.
The first half of the film is like a thriller/mystery: first, a group of school girls kill themselves by jumping in front of a train. The scene is totally over-the-top gory and actually rather humorous. I appreciate that style of violence in movies (ala Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill) where the blood and guts are so unrealistic that they parody the more violent and offensive Hollywood-stylings. After that initial suicide, more follow, including a group of high school students who form a “Suicide Club” in an attempt to be more famous than the girls who jumped in front of the train. We can’t really tell what’s going through the kids’ minds, except that they suddenly think suicide is cool and have no fear of jumping off their school building.
A group of cops begin investigating the suicides — initially labeled as “accidents,” not “murders.” They receive a mysterious phone call from a woman calling herself “The Bat” who claims that a web site tracks the suicides and that each time someone kills themselves as part of the Suicide Club that a dot appears on the page — orange dot for a girl, white dot for a boy. “The Bat” doesn’t claim to be involved with the site — she just finds it interesting.
Other weird things happen (a girl’s boyfriend kills himself by jumping off a building and he hits her ear [??? yes — her ear!], the cops discover a coil made up of pieces of human flesh, one of the cop’s children love the song “Mail Me!” by the group Dessert, the cops receive another mysterious call from a young boy or girl, the cops get a tip to look at the 6th chain, the family of one of the cops’ all commit suicide, etc.) and then “The Bat” and her friend are abducted.
Then the movie goes all-out strange. “The Bat”‘s abductors are a gang that calls themselves the Suicide Club, which is lead by a flamboyantly bizarre character named Genesis. He does a song and dance number about suicide and being lonely and wanting fame. He claims that he uses the internet to convince people to kill themselves — he doesn’t explain how, exactly, he does this, and I’m pretty sure that, as an audience, we’re supposed to be skeptical of his claims.
Eventually “The Bat” is given access to a computer and she sends an email to the police telling them where she is being held. The police arrest Genesis and his gang (Genesis notes that ever since he was a kid he’s wanted to be famous and that he is the “Charles Manson of the Information Age”). Everyone is lead to believe that with the arrest of the Suicide Club, the rash of suicides will stop.
Of course, they don’t.
The movie then shifts to follow the girlfriend whose boyfriend killed himself and hit her ear. She goes back to his apartment and notices all of the Dessert stuff he has (posters, books, ring tones, etc.). After examining one poster up closely, she decodes (via a telephone number and the word that the numbers spell) the word “suicide” being signaled by the group. She calls the number and is vaguely invited to tomorrow’s Dessert show.
Once she arrives at the stadium, things get even weirder. She finds lots of little kids who speak to her in cryptic, probably metaphoric, phrases. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that if I knew more about Japanese culture/history and some of the original language these scenes would have more meaning. Or, maybe they are intended to be oblique. I don’t know.
Ultimately, the girl basically joins the new cult (created by little kids?? so that people can connect with themselves??) and a piece of her back sliced out (so that the kids can make another one of those coils of skin). When the cop recognizes a piece of her tattoo in the newest coil, then sees her on the subway track, he assumes she is going to kill herself, but doesn’t — so Dessert and their videos and the little kids aren’t really behind all the suicides? Who knows?
The movie ends with a Dessert video about jigsaw puzzles and fitting in, which echoes a statement that Genesis made during his arrest.
Honestly, the movie was whacked but had my total attention.
One last bit: I’ve noticed that there are quite a few Japanese “horror” movies in which the internet is used to spread some sort of social virus — suicides, etc. In addition to Suicide Club, the role of the internet was sort of like Pulse, and to some extent, the idea of technology transmitting evil is also present in The Ring/Ringu. I’m guessing these films address a social anxiety (and not just unique to Japan, but the world in general) about the growth of technology or something like that. I’m sure this could make a great essay or something, but for now I’ll save it for this aside.